log (2001/04/20 to 2001/04/26)

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Thursday, April 26, 2001  permanent URL for this entry

Happy Take Our Daughters to Work Day! Although my particular daughter always seems to be doing something else on this Day; today her class is going on a field trip to Albany ("We might get to meet the Governor!").

Lots of other Blogs and their contents to talk about today, for some reason.

James Grimmelmann of the Laboratorium got published in Salon. Kudos! (I think I've pretty much stopped disliking Salon; I don't read them all that often, but when I do the articles don't annoy me as much as they used to; dunno why.) A provoking piece about dot communism:

The conversion of a revolution into a failed revolution is a disheartening process, and for no one is the disillusionment sadder or more shocking than for the revolutionary himself. And however much dot-communism may have owed to its Soviet predecessor while it was in the ascendant, it was on the way back down that the truly telling psychic parallels emerged.

From abuddhas memes, a piece that makes me very nostalgic for my undergrad days in the Philosophy department: The Reality of Now:

Derek Parfit once worried about the following kind of problem... Which situation would you rather be in: to be facing one hour of excruciating pain, or to have had 4 hours of excruciating pain just ended? From an ‘objective’ — where this is already taken to mean, in some sense, an atemporal — point of view one should prefer a life with less pain, so you should prefer to be facing the short pain. But it seems to me (and I hope to you) that one would quite properly rather have 4 hours of pain behind one than even a single hour in front of one.

Whaddya think?

From Caterina, a mostly unremarkable Yahoo Internet Life story about Blogs; if nothing else it'll get a few more people reading a few more good sites.

From Ian, WasArrested; a slightly less obscene version of good old FuckingSucks.

From the referer log, the Laying Foundations journal / blog, "Moments". Nice mix of images and reflection, worth mentioning even if he hadn't said nice things about me.   *8)   He's a friend of Catherine's; his site is vaguely the same flavor as hers (and through his link I notice that her site has yet another name you can read it through).

Beth has posted her account of the Historic Meeting the other week. Ian and I clearly should have walked them all the way out of the building, not just to the lobby. Ooops!

Microsoft ships virus-infected hotfixes. Also Ooops! At least they're contrite:

Microsoft is taking immediate steps to ensure that all computers in our network, particularly those that could be used to transmit a virus to our customers, are fully compliant with our corporate anti-virus policies. We are very sorry the incident occurred, and will do our utmost to ensure that it does not happen again.

Opera (which I keep pronouncing "Oprah" for some reason): I'm still using it as my main browser, and enjoying it very much. Various readers have also written in praise of it; either I have more readers than I thought, or Opera is pretty popular!

Opera: I can see the Industry Standard Test Pattern PNG you have so kindly provided, so yes, Opera can show them. And installing Opera will not touch your IE or NN installations. As far as I recall, it will even ask you which file types you want it to handle by default. Try it! Opera is an acquired taste, it's not perfect, but to me it's the best browser experience yet.

Opera is fine on a ragtag w98 install with ie, mozilla. Your png ok too. From an insecure browser.

opera won't mess anything up (or at least it never has for me) and i believe it was the first browser to offer png support

Opera supports all graphics standards (even CMYK color for print quality graphics on the web... something IE and Nutscrape can't do yet). It won't mess up any current settings with current browsers.

here's a helpful site with tips and tricks for Opera

I LOVE opening one browser instance with all my windows open inside, rather than cluttering my taskbar with all that junk.

Yeah, I'm liking the MDI (MDI?) model quite a bit too at the moment; seems much more natural than the other way somehow. Ideally the browser would let you choose, I think, if you want it to manage all your sessions in a single OS window, or create a new one per session. But the way Opera does it seems better than the way NS or IE do.

When it crashes (generally due to faulty java or javascript - It uses the Java 2 engine, and when and if you install NS6, you'll get it) if you restart it, it gives you the option to start where you left off (often saving you the hard task of remembering all 4 of your windows and where you were) or starting with no windows at all.

Before I realized that it wasn't getting along with the Java on the machine here, it crashed a number of times, and the window-saving feature was much appreciated! And when you just exit normally, say because you have to shut down to finish installing an IE security patch, it also remembers your state, so next time you open it you don't have to hunt down all those pages again.

Speaking of IE security patches, the security-conscious might want to look at this recently reissued (rather confusing) multi-part IE / WSH security bulletin. Although I'm pretty religious about always installing Critical Windows Updates that relate to security, I found that my WSH stuff hadn't been updated as described there, and so I upgraded to the latest level of WSH 5.5. (And this time the install didn't automatically put the system back into the default state of automatically running any scripts that I accidentally "open"; my customized "open with Notepad unless I actually choose 'run' from the context menu" setting was preserved. Good stuff!)

Sheesh, what a geeky way to end a log entry...

Wednesday, April 25, 2001  permanent URL for this entry

Watch as I purchase a beverage! I take from my pocket a number of metal disks of various sizes and colors. I perform a quick mental calculation, based on the price of the beverage. Then I select three of the disks, largish silver-colored ones with the face of a former U.S. President on the front of each. I slip them one at a time into a slot in this large machine, and then I press a button.

There is a whir and a click, and then a loud thud. I reach into a wide slot in the machine, and withdraw a unit of beverage. I now own this object.

Isn't that wonderful?

"So you don't have to be cruel to be kind. But sometimes you just have to be cruel."

"That's very deep."


"It's also utter crap, of course."

The beverage that I now own isn't all that interesting, frankly. It contains too much sugar and too much dissolved carbon dioxide, and drinking it is vaguely nauseating, although I do become less thirsty. But in fact I also own the container that the beverage came in! It's much more interesting; a squat thin-walled metal cylinder with cunningly-recessed ends, and in one end an ingenious lever-device that can be used to open a previously-sealed flap, to allow access to the beverage inside. The container is quite an engineering wonder, and I feel privileged to be able to purchase one so cheaply.

This illustrates the benefits of mass production. This container was very inexpensive; but a slightly different one (with, say, a lever-and-flap device at each end, or a differently shaped opening) would cost orders of magnitude more.

The metal disks that I used to purchase the beverage show a similar phenomenon. It is possible to acquire a great number of these disks for a small amount of money, but only in the five or six standard types. A slightly different disk, of a different color, say, or with the face of Claude Shannon or Tori Amos instead of a former U. S. President, would cost much more.

Eye Candy from the Underground; site design ideas with a clue.

Court Rules Teen Can Spike Volleyball Opponents Online:

A Pittsburgh area school must immediately stop punishing a student for comments he made on an Internet message board, a federal judge ruled Friday.

Ruling seen as victory for online speech:

A federal judge in Seattle has ruled in favor of upholding the right to speak anonymously on the Web, marking victory for those seeking to protect online speech from legal dragnets.

Neat article on how people and computers resolve ambiguities.

Digital Hormones for Robots (news release as posted to the interesting looking "Evolutionary psychology" list on Yahoo. (Which really ought to be a newsgroup of course; things fall apart; the center cannot hold.)

End Daylight Savings Time!

Unix approaches one-billionth second.

Domain name of the day: IdeaHamster.

Complicated fusses I: PotterWar; the boycott of Warner Brothers goes on.

Complicated fusses II: Save Pacifica; something something Pacifica Radio something something.

Secret Code Number:

My ATM pin number! It's ----, FYI. Heh. (Oh my God, did I just let you onto the fact that it has only four digits? What if you steal my card and try all 10,000 possible combinations?)








2^127 - 1


And one early hovercraft message that I thought it was important to answer: My hovercraft is

going to carry me away, please. Is it possible to be a failure at age 17? I am coming & going nowhere fast.

No, it's not possible to be a failure at age 17. At age 17, you're all potential, all light and firming awareness and worry and sorrow and joy, no matter how messy it all seems. You're supposed to be coming and going nowhere fast. But you're also supposed to feel like a failure sometimes. So you're doing fine...   *8)

More hovercraft next week. Have some beverage!

Tuesday, April 24, 2001  permanent URL for this entry

Last night after dinner, after I'd put the kitchen timer back together, the little boy wanted to go out for a walk. It was the first evening that it's really been warm enough, and clear enough, to go for a "nice stroll" sort of walk rather than a "challenging the weather to do its worst" sort of walk.

Eventually we ended up down at the lake, and we picked sticks out of the sand on the beach, and marvelled at how high the water still was. As we came walking down toward the water I saw a canoe just slipping out of sight down the shoreline, and as we were sticking sticks into the tops of sand piles it came back. A nice woman who lives at the other end of the neighboorhood, and another woman I didn't recognize, were paddling. One dog was sitting between them in the boat, and another dog (a very wet dog) was running along the shore, and plunging into the water and swimming beside them, plunging out again and shaking itself off and then plunging in again.

They paddled over to the beach where we were playing in the sand, to take the canoe out. I moved our shoes and the paper that I was nominally reading out of the way so they wouldn't get wet. They stowed the canoe while the dogs rushed around sniffing things, and the little boy retreated to my lap. Then the woman I didn't recognize wriggled out of her shorts and T-shirt, and in a (modest, practical) two-piece black swim suit plunged into the water with the wet dog, and they swam around.

"Isn't it cold?" I said.

"She grew up in Canada," said the woman from the neighboorhood, standing on the bank with the drier dog, smiling indulgently at the swimmers. She told us a story about paddling her kayak once with a tired wet dog draped across the bow.

I always feel funny writing about real people. Should I have gotten a model release from the women, the dogs, the lake, the light? Not that I've written anything scurrilous, or mentioned the color or shape of the swimmer's skin in her suit. But I don't imagine they expected their evening canoe trip to appear on the Web.

Later on, walking home with the little boy through the gathering dusk ("gathering dusk"), down the ancient parallel cement tracks that lead for no reason anyone is sure of from the road down to the lake, past the run-down but servicable (always slightly vandalized, never burnt down) pavillion, I thought about the people who once knew what the cement tracks were for, who first built the pavillion.

Probably inaccurately, I picture them as shinier and more proper. The ladies in modest starched attire, the men in sport coats and ties. The pavillion always spotless, the cement tracks maintained and used for whatever. What would they think of us, in our rumpled cotton clothes walking by the forgotten worn cement tracks, the pavillion with its loose shingles? But on the other hand our laptop computers.

What about this office building here, so shiny and maintained today, carpets and reflective windows and climate control? In fifty years will it still sit here, slightly shoddy, beside the road whose purpose is mostly forgotten, with a few of its windows broken, but that doesn't matter because people don't get cut by glass anymore, and carry their own climate control implanted between their shoulderblades? Will there be people with soft wise faces, trailing along for a walk with their little sons, come down from their dirigibles or up from their caverns of light, for a stroll among the old buildings? Will they be rumpled and untidy, oddly stained, but will all the knowledge of the world flash casually behind their eyes?

Monday, April 23, 2001  permanent URL for this entry

Shall I part my hair behind? Do I dare to eat a peach?
I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach.
I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.

I do not think that they will sing to me.

So after finishing "The Magus", I went back to Aimee Bender's "The Girl in the Flammable Skirt", acquired and started the other month, and finished it. It was unqualifiedly good; short sweet lucid stories all about love and oddness. I should write a review for Amazon. Will I?

Then (we were in the local Barnes and Noble, doing our all too common "out to dinner and the bookstore") I bought a collection of T. S. Eliot so I could read The Waste Land on good old paper.

I haven't quite gotten to that poem, though, as I've been going very slowly over and through, and over again, the things that come before it in the slim book. My favorite is The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock (quoted above). Most excellent stuff.

And I have known the arms already, known them all --
Arms that are braceleted and white and bare
[But in the lamplight, downed with light brown hair!]
It is perfume from a dress
That makes me so digress?

So while poetry-culture in general is still rather a foreign country to me, I'm greatly enjoying these particular poems.

Another article about the "Sentient Property Crime Bureau" and other odd related sites in this Web of Publicity.

From Richard Koolish: A team of British space scientists has devised a plan to nudge an asteroid out of its solar orbit and send it hurtling into the centre of Telford:

The impact on the Midlands new town would trigger an explosion the equivalent of 15 hydrogen bombs, wiping Telford - birthplace of the Industrial Revolution and which now boasts "one of Shropshire's larger shopping centres" - off the map.

and an odd little sidebar:

News that Telford and its 150,000 residents are earmarked for a doomsday explosion was greeted with disappointment by the town leaders. Pauline Picken, deputy leader of Telford and Wrekin council, said the town had an important industrial heritage, a unique geology and a thriving economy.

Ms Picken said: "Why would they want to deflect an asteroid on Telford? It's the birthplace of industry and it is a forward-looking New Town. We have plans to redevelop the town centre."


Americans United research shows that several of the committee's members have made insulting and intolerant comments about religious, ethnic and other minority groups.
Of the 32 committee members, only two are women, only one represents a Jewish congregation and there are no representatives from other minority faith traditions, including a total absence of Muslims, Buddhists and Hindus.

Bush certainly hasn't wasted any time doffing that friendly campaign-time mask, eh? Sheesh!

Myst 3

M points out that Myst 3 is due out in a few weeks. I had no idea! Why wasn't I informed? Looks pretty...

I haven't linked to Catherine much lately, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't be reading her; it'd just get sort of boring if I constantly said "Catherine's latest is lovely again". *8) Here's one of my favorites among her recent stuff.

Mentioned in passing by Jane Duvall, another journal-hosting site, sort of like a Pitas for diarists (or I guess sort of like DiaryLand): LiveJournal. (I especially like the random journal link.)

So it's warm now, and I dug around in the shoe-basket and found some sandals that more or less fit, and now walking around wearing them I find that they trap air in under the part that you walk on, and so while I'm walking around my feet are going like "hissss hissss hissss" as the air gets squeezed out when I step down. I can't decide whether to be pleased or annoyed.

Friday, April 20, 2001  permanent URL for this entry

A couple of readers who liked The Magus more than I did write:

I really *liked* The Magus - probably Fowles' best book. But it takes all sorts...

I read The Magus when I was about 22, and I read the revised version when it came out a few years later. Both times I thought it was a great novel, one of the best I'd ever read. Admittedly, I like adolescent fantasies clad as the real thing. Could it be it's time to read it again? One thing puzzles me: if you found the going so slow and dreadful, what kept you reading?

You expect me to know my own motivations?   *8)   I think it was some combination of:

  • I hate not finishing books (not that I never do it, but I don't like it),
  • As I said, it had some good moments and some good images; I was hoping for more (once Urfe left the island, there weren't many),
  • I was hoping for and/or expecting it to work; for some significant change in Urfe, for some plausible explanation of the conspirators' motivations. I didn't know until the very last page that I wasn't going to get those!

Not that every novel has to wrap up neatly. But if one isn't going to, the author has to do give me something to justify the lack of resolution; Fowles didn't, to my mind. So I was unhappy. I'm glad other people liked it more (if there's enough interest, maybe we can have a QuickTopic on it or something).

Speaking of Nicholas Urfe, a correspondant draws my attention to Nicholas Urfe, the writer of naughty stories on the Web (WARNING: naughty pictures, naughty words). Vaguely reminiscent of Mark Aster, but somewhat (what?) darker. I recommend the sex-and-cyberpunk Silk and Amphetamines even to those who don't normally read naughty Net stuff.

On the Speakers: I broke down and ordered two CDs from this CD club we belong to ("cheap if you don't count the shipping charges!"). Tori Amos "Crucify" and Devo's Greatest Hits.

Are we not men?
We are Devo!

Ah, nostalgia! Now where can I get a cut of The Firemen doing "Jocko Bozo"?

Are we not clowns?
We are Bozo!

Returning to the theme of how clever I am, I would like to point out that sometime back I wrote:

I see on Telly that NBC (a television network) is starting up some sort of portal, of all things. How utterly Twentieth Century! That niche is, like, all full, guys. Time to short some stock? Or have they, against all odds, actually done something interesting? Doesn't look like it from the ads, or from a brief look at the (slow, ad-cluttered, boring-looking) site itself.

Then I would like to point out this article: NBC to absorb loss-plagued NBCi. Man, I should like get a high-paying job predicting technology trends and stuff. Oh, wait...

Women who Run with the Stooges

The Dozen: Coolest DVD "Easter Eggs"

From the Daily Illuminator, the very thrilling Dunjon Of Düm. (OK, so it was only funny for about ninety seconds; at least it loads fast!)

You know a gaming company is cool when its online magazine runs a column describing how to use Eliot's The Waste Land in a role-playing campaign (you'll only be able to read the first third of the article if you're not a subscriber).

The next stage is to borrow Eliot's imagery for creepy purposes, especially if your game already ties to the Grail, Gnosticism, human sacrifice, King Arthur, Christ, desolation, or the Tarot. Put a hyacinth girl, or a drowned Phoenician sailor, or a sprouting corpse, or "towers upside down in air" or "voices singing out of empty cisterns and exhausted wells" into your game and see if I'm not right.

From Apathy, a nice online version of The 10 Bulls, one of my favorite bits of Eastern philosophy.

Right-baiting: Bill Bennet: The Moral Hooker of the Right Wing:

I do not mean to imply that Bennett is the GOP's designated hatchet man assigned to defund Democratic office seekers. I state it explicitly. Bennett refers to himself as a "trained philosopher". It is a description that is far more poetic but much less accurate than "amoral party hack".

Now that's not very subtle, is it? (Link from Ethel.)

More right-baiting: Chicken Hawks. Probably untrue, but funny ("George Will -- sought deferment, too much of a wussy").

rat tickling

Note that I have resisted putting any pictures of Tori Amos in the margin, true to my increasingly ill-focused qualms about that sort of thing. Instead, we have a picture of someone tickling a rat. The reader suggesting it wrote:

Those of us who keep pet rats find this one amusing.

Indeed. (The picture at the other end of the link is especially (ummm) amusing, being animated. Now I'm going to have nightmares...)


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